5 Fanciful Ways To Stay Warm While Skating On A Frozen River

From giant felt blankets to heated foam “noodles,” Winnipeg’s Warming Huts competition has added new wacky structures to a historic park.


Those in more temperate climes may groan about trudging through 2014’s Winter From Hell, but Canadians are making it fun. Since 2010, a Winnipeg historic park has been challenging artists and architects to transform one of its frozen waterways into an inviting trail. Every year, contestants compete to bedazzle The Forks with “warming huts,” imaginative structures that keep skaters from developing frostbite.


Designing cozy huts on ice is no easy task, but the 2014 winners used a variety of materials and creative approaches to get the job done. Here are five of the entries that joined the trail this season.


Like giant, static tribbles, Raw Design’s “Nuzzles” are cute, faceless, furry creatures that warm skaters with pool noodles and a heated base. Skaters can burrow themselves between the noodles to warm up, or simply rub themselves all over the structure, like a bear using a tree trunk as a back scratcher. Unfortunately, kids found the Nuzzles a bit too exciting, and the structures didn’t last long.


It’s surprising no one’s thought of this before: Giant felt blankets that hang from an overpass. The Forks just installed 10 of them, courtesy of Workshop Architects Inc., and encourage people to wrap themselves in them, one or two at a time.


Inspired by birch-bark canoes that used to float down the Assiniboine River in summer, designers Kate Busby and Bella Totino created structures that could protect inhabitants with a wind vane on a rotating steel base. A heat lamp sits inside, where skaters can gather and warm their hands.


Third-year architecture students at the University of Manitoba designed a Truman Show-like warming hut with a reflective interior, to deliver an “illusion of the visitors sitting amongst the changing winter skies.”


Remembering the French-Canadian trappers who used to traverse the woods in long johns and moccasins, architect Étienne Gaboury created a warming hut that uses two helium balloons to suspend an upside-down pair of old-timey pants that visitors can enter through the fly.

About the author

Sydney Brownstone is a Seattle-based former staff writer at Co.Exist. She lives in a Brooklyn apartment with windows that don’t quite open, and covers environment, health, and data